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Lewis Hamilton

Japanese GP further proof Hamilton's Ferrari bombshell was correct

Ferrari and Mercedes are on different trajectories, and Lewis Hamilton might have got it right once again.

Hamilton race Japan
Analysis
To news overview © XPBimages

Towards the end of the 2023 season, one of the major questions was who would finish second in the Constructors' between Mercedes and Ferrari.

Mercedes had the points on the board but Ferrari, thanks to minor upgrades in Japan, were gathering momentum as Charles Leclerc tapped into a rich vein of form.

This coincided with Mercedes stumbling towards the finish line, just hoping that somehow it could salvage a second place in the standings in the year of Max Verstappen and the RB19.

In the end, Mercedes pipped Ferrari by just three points, and were confident heading into 2024 that it could finally have a go at beginning to chisel away at the chasm to Red Bull, but now four races into 2024, Red Bull has 171 points in the standings, and Mercedes just 34. It is yet to finish higher than fifth.

In contrast, Ferrari has taken a clear step forward over the winter and is now biting Red Bull's heels, and capitalised on their Australian failure to scoop a one-two and nip the 'can Red Bull win every race' question in the bud.

After a painful Japanese Grand Prix in which he finished ninth and was the last car on the lead lap, some 48.6s behind Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton was asked if he was "jealous" of watching Ferrari's performance as it bagged a three-four result.

He promptly walked away, but the Japanese GP was further proof that his bombshell move to Maranello was correct.

Flashback to Friday, and Hamilton's mood was upbeat after an encouraging day for the team, one he even labelled as the "best" of the year thus far.

This was despite Mercedes fearing Suzuka would expose its high-speed fundamental weakness, but Hamilton was chipper, and qualified seventh for the race with George Russell in ninth.

But early in the race, he suffered from understeer and waved Russell by as he then went on the attack and Hamilton bobbed around the lower reaches of the points, eventually coming home ninth for a sixth straight finish not higher than sixth.

It was another false dawn for Mercedes, who suffered another up and down weekend, with the troughs far lower than the limited peaks.

The W15 is now the third attempt at a ground-effects car, but Mercedes is still yet to add a sizeable dollop of performance to any of those in-season, and this must be a concern.

Ferrari and McLaren have both managed to transform their machines during the season, either through good old-fashioned engineering or upgrades that excel - something Mercedes simply has not done.

This is not to say they can't of course, as you don't win eight world championships without knowing what you are doing, but it is a team lost and struggling to find the "north star" Hamilton referred to last season.

There has been a considerable brain-drain at Brackley in recent years with Andy Cowell, James Vowles, James Allison and Mike Elliott all moving on - although Allison did return as technical director.

The trouble for Mercedes is that the 2025 cars will be largely based off their 2024 cousins ahead of the big changes coming for 2026, so in effect, what you run at the end of this year, will set you up for 2025.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Hamilton's blinder

But of course, that won't be of Hamilton's concern as he heads to Italy.

Sure, he will demanding every drop of performance before he does leave, and he certainly won't be jealous of Ferrari as the question to him asked.

But clearly he saw something either at Mercedes or Ferrari to convince him to activate the break clause in his contract and jump the good ship HMS Brackley.

Ferrari's foundations are not quite enough to challenge Red Bull just yet, but the SF-24 is a promising platform for which they can build through this year and mount a title tilt next season.

Not for the first time, it looks as if Hamilton might have played a blinder when changing teams.


			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

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